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Arizona businesses want veto of controversial service bill

PHOENIX -- Arizona's biggest business advocacy group is calling on Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill allowing business owners with strongly held religious beliefs to refuse service to gays.

The legislation passed last week has triggered a national backlash from supporters of gay rights, and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is among business groups requesting a veto.

The chamber said Monday the bill could hurt tourism, make it hard to recruit new businesses and open the door to lawsuits against businesses.

In a letter sent to Brewer, the group said:

Dear Governor Brewer:

"After careful study and analysis of Senate Bill 1062, our organizations, which represent the broad spectrum of Arizona's business community, respectfully request that you veto this bill.

"We are concerned over the potential for businesses to be exposed to an increased risk of litigation. Businesses carry out laws every day that could, under the construct of this legislation, be construed as a "state action," which could result in increased disputes over the application of current and future law. We are troubled by any legislation that could be interpreted to permit discrimination against a particular group of people in the marketplace.

"The legislation is also already clearly having a negative effect on our tourism industry, one of the largest sectors of the economy. The bill could also harm job creation efforts and our ability to attract and retain talent. We all have a fervent desire for Arizona to be a welcoming, attractive destination for the top talent that will be the cornerstone of our continued economic growth.

"If specific Arizona issues related to religious liberty are identified, we would stand ready to work with anyone to ensure that any solution addresses those problems while also ensuring that all individuals feel welcome in our state and that business is not hurt."

The letter was signed by Tom Franz, president/CEO of the Greater Phoenix Leadership; Glenn Hamer, president/CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Todd Sanders, president/CEO of the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce and Ron Shoopman, president of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.

Conservative groups supporting the legislation are pushing back and hoping Brewer signs it in to law.

The state Senate will formally send the already approved bill to Brewer on Monday. She would then have five days to act.

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